During the month of April, dental and medical professionals join together in the importance of raising awareness on the danger that oral cancer brings and the importance of early detection with oral cancer screenings.
Why is Early Detection Important? – Survival Rate
Oral cancers potentially have an 80 to 90 % survival rate when found in the early stages of development. According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, most cases found as late-stage cancers account for a very high death rate of about 43% at five years from diagnosis.
- Close to 54,000 people are diagnosed with oral cancer annually
- It causes over 13,500 deaths in the US per year
- Oral cancer occurs in twice as many men as women
It’s important to regularly check for signs and symptoms of oral cancer and to contact your dental provider if they do not heal after two to three weeks.
- Any ulceration or soars that do not heal within two weeks
- Red, white or dark discoloration of the mouth’s soft tissues
- Any abnormality that easily bleeds when touched
- Difficulty speaking, chewing, or swallowing
- Difficulty moving or swelling of your jaw
- Difficulty moving or numbness in your tongue
- Ear pain
- A lump, irritation, or thick patch that develops in the mouth
70% of oropharyngeal cancers in the United States are caused by Human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV16 is the version most responsible for oropharyngeal cancers and will affect both men and women manifesting in the back of the throat, the base of the tongue, and the tonsils.
Factors that can increase your risk of mouth cancer include:
- Tobacco use of any kind
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) – Sexually transmitted virus
- Excessive sun exposure to your lips
- Weakened immune system
- Age – individuals over the age of 40 have a higher risk of oral cancer occurring
No method is proven but you can minimize your risk of getting oral cancer if you:
- Stop tobacco use
- Drink in moderation
- Minimize sun exposure, and apply a sunscreen lip product to your lips
- Visit your dentist regularly to examine your mouth for any abnormal areas or changes that may indicate mouth cancer
Oral cancer can be effectively treated if detected early and depends on your cancer’s location, stage, and overall health. Treatment options include:
- Targeted drug therapy